LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In her first official act since being sworn into office, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass declared a state of emergency on homelessness Monday.
Bass said the declaration shows the people of Los Angeles that "we are united and serious about the city's crisis of homelessness."
The effort will help city agencies cut through red tape, she said, as she plans soon to unveil proposals to clear homeless encampments and get people living on the streets into shelter and housing.
"I will not accept a homeless crisis that afflicts more than 40,000 Angelenos and affects every one of us. It is a humanitarian crisis that takes the life of five people every day," the mayor said just prior to officially signing the declaration. "It must stop, and change starts now...There will be no holding back on my watch."
During her inaugural address on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in downtown, Bass drew applause when she vowed to start her administration with a visit to the city's Emergency Operations Center. The state of emergency will reqiure approval every month from the Los Angeles City Council to stay in effect.
The new mayor focused on housing as one of the key topics in her inauguration speech, noting that the emergency declaration will "recognize the severity of our crisis and break new ground to maximize our ability to urgently move people inside, and do so for good."
"It will create the structure necessary for us to have a true, unified and citywide strategy to set us on the path to solve homelessness," Bass said.
WATCH | Mayor Bass delivers remarks before signing state of emergency declaration on homelessness
So, how will the emergency order change things? Bass used the example of how quickly freeways were repaired following the 1994 Northridge earthquake compared to how long it normally takes. Bass says her emergency order will speed up the process and unite government agencies under one umbrella.
"Use the emergency order to fast rack building, because the point is, you're going to be in a motel that is temporary and one of the problems we've had is that temporary winds up running out. We all know about the challenges that if somebody was a developer and wants to come build affordable housing, it winds up costing a lot of money because of the delays, road blocks, barriers," she said.
Bass says her state of emergency will not only remove roadblocks, but it will also bring accountability. Later this week, Bass will unveil her plan, called Inside Safe, to address encampments. She has also pledged to clear the most problematic encampments in her first 100 days relying on master leasing apartments and hotel rooms for temporary shelters.
During her mayoral campaign, Bass promised to house 17,000 people by the end of her first year, dramatically reduce street homelessness, end street encampments and lead on mental health and substance abuse treatment.
"The city is known throughout the world for its emergency response. Well now, starting today, under Mayor Bass, we are going to bring that same vigor, that same sense of urgency, that same gathering of resources to respond to this emergency as well," said L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian.
According to the latest count by the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, there were 41,980 unhoused people in the city this year, up 1.7% from 2020.
"The mayor's first priority and likely the main one for some time to come is homelessness," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
"The voters don't expect a miracle but will be looking for a clear and credible path toward measurable and visible improvement," Sonenshein said. "It's an opportunity for an energetic reset on a crisis that has seemed stuck, and also a chance to restore confidence in local government in Los Angeles."
Bass has said that Los Angeles has earned the "shameful crown" of having some of the most overcrowded neighborhoods in the country and called for residents to "welcome housing to every neighborhood."
"We know our mission: We must build housing in every neighborhood," Bass said. "We cannot continue to overcrowd neighborhoods that are already overcrowded."
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.
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